Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Mitchell Forman: Now & Then


The full title of this disc is Now & Then: A Tribute to Bill Evans, and a piano trio with Forman, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette is a great vehicle for clean, nicely-recorded version of some of Evans' favorite tunes, both his own and those standards he was known to play.

The disc starts of with Waltz for Debby, which immediately sets the tone for what is going on here. The trio tastefully and romantically sets up the childlike melody, harmonies, and rhythm which express the mood of this piece so well. No one is trying to outshine or impress here, it is just the music which is important.

Next, a fast and enthusiastic version of Walkin' Up moves the listener's ear in a new direction, with more exciting, toe-tapping energy. Forman skillyfully flies over the harmonic movements with nimble fingers and good ideas. DeJohnette is especially talented here at both following and predicting the shapes and comments the pianist makes here. It is similar to Bill Evans' version, but with some different figurations and a sharper edge to it.

Next, Nardis brings mystery and quiet drama to the set, moving into darkly swinging time, out, and back again. My Romance and My Foolish Heart follows - and right about here the listener begins to think that maybe this trio could have chosen some of the less-predictable Evans songs. Anyhow, it's an enjoyable ride. It is a Tribute to Bill Evans after all. The remainder of the album contains versions of Gloria's Step, How My Heart Sings, and But Beautiful, along with two Forman originals (Now and Then, the title track, is quite nice).

Listening to this disc creates the feeling of attending a live jazz concert titled Tribute to Bill Evans - watching a professional trio recreating an Bill Evans set that night - "just as it happened" - for all of us who never got to see Bill Evans in person. However, it is not just a pianist trying his best to imitate the Evans style. The Evans-style has influenced many jazz pianists, but it is nice to also be able to distinguish Forman's voice and recognize DeJohnette's and Gomez's contributions.

It may be worth mentioniong that DeJohnette and Gomez did play with Evans in a trio setting as well, such as on the great Live at Montreux Jazz Festival recording from 1968.

Recorded in 1992 for the Novus label.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Wayne Shorter: Etcetera


I have been a fan of Shorter's Blue Note albums for a while now. I have kind of avoided picking up Etcetera for some reason, maybe because it just seemed different and worried me for some unexplainable reason. Joining Shorter are Herbie Hancock on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, and Joe Chambers on drums.

I'm listening to it now for the first time. The title track is nice, abstractish but with a good pulse. Herbie Hancock and Shorter are conversing fluently, proving they are really tuned in and listening - one of the rewards of listening to jazz is knowing the musicians are listening just as hard. Interesting: the second track Penelope contains a melodic fragment from the opening statement of El Gaucho from 1966's Adam's Apple. Since Etcetera was recorded in 1965, perhaps part of Penelope became the inspiration for El Gaucho?

Next track up, Toy Tune is a mid-tempo romper which seems to drift through several keys but not settling on any one in particular for very long. Strange but interesting, a nice Shorter experiment here. Barracudas (General Assembly) is the only tune on the album not by Shorter - it's a Gil Evans song. It builds up nicely and makes the 11-minute track a great jazz exploration. The fifth and last song, Indian Song, is a mysterious and rhythmically interesting song which picks up a vicious energy at times as the journey continues. A rewarding album. I asked myself, why did I wait so long to pick this up? However, it is a great suprise for me to discover great Shorter music from one of his most productive phases, and to listen to it for the first time.

Recorded in 1965 for Blue Note.